20 September 2015

Death of Edward W. Hall (1839-1863)

The old adage is that "the winner gets to write the history."  But there are winners on a multitude of levels, winners of arguments, winners of skirmishes, winners of battles, and winners of wars.  The Union Army won the war, but they lost a lot of battles.  One of those catastrophic, unnecessary battles claimed the life of my 2xg-granduncle Edward W. Hall, 1st Lieutenant Co. B, 3rd Iowa Infantry.

General Grant was involved in a chess match in Mississippi in the summer on 1863, trying to take Vicksburg.  To draw Confederate defenses away from Vicksburg he attacked the state capital of Jackson.  After defeating Vicksburg he had to turn around reclaim Jackson.  On the 13th of July, Brigadier General Jacob Laumann ordered Col. Isaac Pugh to line up and march his brigade of over three thousand soldiers, passed an abatis of downed trees, through a cornfield and up a hill directly into an enemy firing artillery the entire time. The lined up Union soldiers were mowed down by rebel artillery.  Whole slashes of men were wiped away with each cannon ball or canister of grape shot.

I now pass it over to Lt. S.D. Thompson and his self-published book from 1864, Recollections with the Third Iowa regiment -- 

Click to enlarge.
Each regiment was literally torn in pieces. In proportion
to their numbers the 53d Illinois suffered most, to say
nothing of losing their gallant Colonel Earle, who was
struck by a volley of canister while riding in advance
of his men. Our own regiment lost one hundred and
thirteen, sixteen being killed, fifty-seven wounded, and
forty missing and taken prisoners. A number of the
wounds were mortal. Among those who lost their lives
were some of our best names. The Ruckman brothers,
the one Captain, the other 2d Lieutenant of Company B;
1st Lieutenant Hall, of the same company; and 1st
Lieutenant McMurtrie of Company D; 1st Sergeants
Woodruff of Company B, and McClure of Company I;
Sergeants Gilmore and Dent of Company E, Follett of
Company F, and many other gallant names were among
the sacrifices of this needless blunder.

-- The soldiers knew this was a bad idea.  The field officers knew this was a bad idea, everyone all the way up to and including Col. Pugh knew this was a bad idea. But General Laumann was to be trusted and obeyed.  Laumann was recalled to HQ in Vicksburg and never allowed to command again.

Such was the death of my 2xg-granduncle Lt. Edward W. Hall, July 13th, 1863.

Copyright © 2015 by Kevin W. Walker

19 September 2015

SUVCW Grave Marker Dedication

Today my son Ralph and I attended a grave marker dedication at the Oak Hill and Oak Crest Memorial Cemeteries in Downer's Grove, Illinois.  The event was sponsored by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and the Oak Hill/Oak Crest Cemeteries Foundation.  Wonderful turnout!  Well over a hundred people.  There were several dignitaries -- township trustees, a mayor, local state congresswoman, and a representative from the Governor's office.

The new grave markers were for Pvt. Jacob T. Escher (Co. E, 8th Ill Cavalry), Pvt. Judson Farrar (Co. E, 8th Ill Cavalry), Pvt. Herman Pilz (Co. I, 52nd Ohio Infantry) and Pvt. Martin E. Stanger (Co. A, 82nd Ill Infantry).  I keep calling them grave markers, but in fact they are headstones paid for with your tax dollars and provided through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  Our country has, rightfully, decided this is one of the least things we can do to show our appreciation for their service.

There were remarks from two representatives of the S.U.V.C.W., the politicians spoke, also a local Eagle Scout who was instrumental in the project. Everyone kept it to just two minutes until the head speaker who was the local historian and cemetery curator who gave us the detailed biographies of these four soldiers.  The S.U.V.C.W. also provided a presentation of colors, professional singer (for the National Anthem and "Battle Hymn of the Republic"), and an artillery salute with a period canon, salute with period rifles, and a professional bugler ("Amazing Grace" and "Taps").  And of course the S.U.V.C.W. provided a chaplain for the Invocation and the Benediction.

At last count I have six direct ancestors who served in the Civil War --

Pvt. Charles H. Chesley -- Co. K, 8th Illinois Cavalry
Pvt. Alfred Gibson -- Co. D, 33rd Kentucky Infantry
Pvt. George Hall -- Co. K, 26th Illinois Infantry
Corp. Arthur H. Needham -- Hosp. Steward, 2nd Iowa Cavalry
Pvt. Samuel R. Porter -- Co I, 17th Illinois Infantry (transfer from 8th Ill)
Pvt. Henry Martin Walker -- Co. A, 33rd Illinois Infantry

-- and several more indirect relatives.  I have been completely engrossed in Civil War studies for the last several months.  Reading, researching, listening to podcasts, and watching lectures on YouTube.com. It would be impossible for me to recount all I have learned.  So two months ago my son Ralph and I decided to join the S.U.V.C.W. Needing to show our ancestral connection, we chose to use my 2xg-grandfather Henry Martin Walker, Sr. as our ticket in.  After all, we share his surname and his y-chromosome.  Today's dedication was our first event as members of the S.U.V.C.W.

Following the Civil War many, many of the Union Veterans formed the Grand Army of the Republic as a fraternal organization supporting the soldiers.  According to Wikipedia --
Linking men through their experience of the war, the G.A.R. became among the first organized advocacy groups in American politics, supporting voting rights for black veterans, promoting patriotic education, help to make Memorial Day a national holiday, lobbying the United States Congress to establish regular veterans' pensions, and supporting Republican political candidates. Its peak membership, at more than 490,000 was in 1890.
-- As the Civil War veterans began passing away, the job of looking after our soldiers and their memory was passed down to their sons, and then their sons' sons, and so on.  That is where Ralph and I are currently, descended not just from Civil War veterans but G.A.R. members too.  Doing good work.  Doing the right thing.

Copyright © 2015 by Kevin W. Walker

27 August 2015

Wounding of Lt. Harvey Dutton (1836-1928) at Battle of Vicksburg

From -- Marshall, A. O., & Schultz, R. G. (2009). Army life: From a soldier's journal : incidents, sketches and record of a Union soldier's army life, in camp and field, 1861-64. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press.
As night began to approach orders were passed along our lines for our troops to withdraw. As it grew dark we did so. Those in the most advanced and exposed conditions coming first. Sadly we wended our way back to the lines we had held before making our charge upon the rebel works of Vicksburg.   
One of our most disgusted men was Lieutenant Dutton. He had been struck upon the leg by a small, nearly spent ball. The ball was not going with force enough to break the skin, but as it happened to strike upon a tender cord the injured part commenced to swell, and by the time we withdrew he could hardly use his foot, and was obliged to hobble along as best he could. To be so lame without any wound to show for it he thought disgusting.
Harvey Dutton was my 2xg-uncle on my father's paternal side.

Copyright © 2015 by Kevin W. Walker

26 July 2015

Abstract of Death Record of Emma (Gibson) Calkins Waggoner Boll, 1898-1975

This abstract was contracted from a professional researcher by a Calkin's cousin --

Death Record 
Source: L.A. County D/R  D1975 0021735
Decedent: Emma Boll
Personal: Female, Cauc, Widowed, 76
Address: 110-D W Maple, Glendale, CA
DOB: 9-3-1898                   POB: KS
Occupation: Companion, 20 yrs
Industry: Mary Gower, Companion
Father: C.L. Gibson, b. KY
Mother: Ella Gurwell, b. KS
In County: 32 yrs
In California: 43 yrs
Citizenship: USA
DOD: 5-7-1975, 8:55pm
POD: Glendale Convalescent Hosp; Glendale, CA (409 W Glenoaks Blvd)
SSN: 565-09-9843
Spouse: -----
Informant: Walter D. Calkins, 110-D W Maple; Glendale, CA
Disposition: Cremation, Westwood Memorial Park
Funeral Director: Westwood Village Mortuary
Cause of Death: Metastatic Carcinoma of breast, 18 mos
Contributing Cause: Left Carcinoma of breast, 2 yrs
Other: -----
Autopsy: No
Emma Gibson Boll was my great-aunt on my mother's paternal side.

Copyright © 2015 by Kevin W. Walker

25 July 2015

Dutton Letters, part 6: The Death of Harvey Dutton

This is a letter from Harvey James Dutton's daughter Norma (Dutton) Mack to her cousin Effie Mae (Ricketts) Kern -- 
Springfield, Mo.
Jan 27, 1928 
Dear Cousin Effie,
     I received your letter and what a comfort it is to know wherever Papa went he was loved and respected by all.  I have had such nice letters from his friends in Zephyrhills.
     It was a shock to us when we got the telegram of his death as Gertrude had a letter that was written on Saturday and he was just fine and having such a good time for the weather had been good all fall.  On Sat. he ate something that did not agree with him but on Mon. he wrote to Rowena and said that he felt a little sick on Sat. but was all right on Monday.  When he wrote Tuesday afternoon he (papa) walked 5 blocks and played dominoes all afternoon went back to the hotel ate a hearty supper and went calling in the evening.  That night took a couple of pills went to bed but had to get up before day to go to toilet--but was the first one of the boarders out to breakfast--he said he did not want anything to eat--but wanted his cup of hot water (which he always had) said he had a pain in his left side.  Mrs. Hart (the Hotel Lady) said she would get the hot water bottle.  Papa got up form the table started for the reception hall went about three steps and fell dead.   They picked him up but he was gone.
     Write again and I will answer.
And so the great man dies.  He body was returned to Springfield, Missouri, and Hazelwood cemetery next to his wife and sister.  Click here to see his FindaGrave Memorial.  His newspaper death announcement and obituary are here.  There are many, many other posts on this blog about the great man.

Copyright © 2015 by Kevin W. Walker

24 July 2015

Dutton Letters, Part 5: Uncle Harvey Dutton Writes Nephew Lyford Kern the Catholic

I love this letter.  Out of all the Dutton letters that Linda has shared with us so far, this is the one I enjoyed the most.  In my introduction to the Dutton letters, I wrote that perhaps the most rewarding experience for a family historian is to learn the presumptions he made about his ancestors based on his research were found in fact true.  This letter was that confirmation for me.  Remember you can click on the pics to enlarge them.

This is Harvey J. Dutton, age 88, writing to his grand-nephew Lyford Kern, age 21, son of Harvey's niece Effie (Ricketts) Kern.  Lyford converted to Catholicism and became an ordained priest.
Zephyrhills, Fla.                                                    Nov. 13, 1924
Dear nephew,
     Dilatory as usual in answering letters.  Perhaps if I had a typewriter the novelty of using one, or rather learning to use one might make letter writing less of a task.  Was very much interested in what you said in letters of Sept. 8 about your visit home, high water from some same.  Snapping sweet corn, helping neighbors threshing, etc. but while you gave yield per acre you omitted to give numbers of acres or price per ton, which would have given me some idea of the profits of  "specialty farming."
     You see, I am very much interested in how your folks are prospering on their new farm. Your mother wrote me that they hoped to make arrangements to meet the unpaid balance (what it was I never knew) without giving a mortgage.  Hope they succeeded for a mortgage is anything but a cheerful companion.  As I have said before, I do not care to discuss Roman Catholicism.  But do not for a moment think that I consider your claims for said church borne out by the facts as recorded in the history of the early churches.   However, the efforts of any organization to correct former bad practices is to be commended.  Referring to your last letters I will say that had I answered before election I might have expressed some anxiety as to the result.  Not that I had any fears that Davis or LaFollette would be elected, but that they might carry enough states to throw the election into congress which I looked upon as almost a calamity, foreseeing the result.  But the people have spoken & in no uncertain terms.
     So you were for Davis.  Isn't that another departure from your early training?  Seems to me all the Kerns were Republicans or Prohibitionists.  I believe George Ricketts was a Democrat.  Well!  Clarence wrote me that he should support the renegade Republican, LaFollette.  Another source of regret to me.  Another case of influence of environment.  Labor unionism.  Well!  He may be proud to be numbered with the tail-enders.  And you, I suppose, are elated with the idea of being counted with the solid south.  Shame on you, George and Clarence too.  But I have one consolation.  The rest of my children are living up to their early training & they are voters too.  Three of them helped to carry Missouri for Coolidge.  I lost my chance to vote by coming away before the election & depending on a friend to send an absentee ballot which he failed to do.  Just received a letter from Bertha, who writes "I suppose the result of the election suited you.  It does us."  Was shocked that Clarence is a Socialist.  She writes further that LaF. "cooked" himself with his course during the war. Clarence writes that he admired LaF's course in congress during the war.  Which of the two, Clarence or Berta, is the better American?
     Must either wind up as put off further writing till another day.  Speaking of your chum Tom Dillon and Roberta, you say you guess you can trust him with her.  Is Roberta really so dangerous?  Liable to lead him astray, corrupt his morals, is she?  From my acquaintance with her I had formed a different opinion.  As I owe her a letter, shall have to warn her.
     Left Sprg. Nov. 15th Arrived here 18th.  Nicely located.  Brought a comrade with me, so I have a roommate.  His first trip south.  Health is good.  Eats fair.
     Should be glad to hear from you whenever convenient.
     H.J. Dutton
Clarence (Dutton) was Harvey's son.  Bertha (Dutton) was Harvey's daughter.  George Ricketts was Harvey's brother in law, married to Harvey's sister Laura, and Lyford's grandfather.  Roberta (Kern) was Lyford's sister.

Eighty-eight years old, and a mind as sharp as a whip.  God I love this man --
  • Fondly remembering midwest farming, he opens on Lyford not giving him the requisite information to understand everything about how his family is doing on the new farm.  Mean-spirited?  No.  Just an old senior saying "Don't hold back on account of my age, don't discount my mind, son."  Since the next paragraph is about his parents might needing to take out a mortgage, it might also be true he was wanting to know if he needed to help his niece financially.
  • His remarks about the Catholic church also seemed to be pointed and sarcastic, but inoffensive. He holds back any overt counter-fire, choosing the subliminal so as to stay true to his own beliefs but not to hurt.
  • As repeated over and over, the Duttons are devout Christians (primarily in the Methodist tradition), including strong advocates of the abolition of slavery and the prohibition of liquor, and thus they were conservative Republicans.  This is what Harvey keeps harking back to with comments such as the young generations "early training."
  • When Lyford says he supported the Democrat Davis in the '24 presidential election, there is backstory.  The Democratic south was still in part beholden to the KuKluxKlan, and the first party nominee was Alfred Smith, the Governor of New York.  But to the south he was a "Northerner" and he was, gasp, CATHOLIC!  So the Democratic south rejected him in favor of Ambassador John Davis from West Virginia to be the Democratic nominee.  So Harvey is taking the screws to his Catholic nephew "elated to be counted with the solid south."  Hehe.
  • But the Republicans too had internal struggles, the progressive brand of Republicans in the tradition of Theodore Roosevelt, enticed Sen.Robert LaFollette of Wisconsin to make a third party run.  This is what worried Harvey, that the Republicans would split their vote and make way for the segregationist Democrat which is what happened in 1912 when a third party run by Teddy Roosevelt opened the door for Democrat Woodrow Wilson.
  • Harvey's son Clarence, a tradesman cabinet-maker, was pro-union so supported the progressive LaFollette.  Clarence would say to his father that his "early training" was still true to moral issues, leaving Harvey the only opening of calling Clarence a "socialist."
  • Harvey refers to Bertha versus Clarence based on their opinion of La Follette's antiwar stance during World War I (and desire to pay Germany reparations after).  Clearly liberal.  Harvey a conservative, and veteran and hero of the Civil War, clearly sides with Bertha. 
  • We continue to see Harvey's wit in the closing paragraph where he deliberately twists his grand-nephew's words about his sister Roberta dating a friend, and threatens to tell Roberta what Lyford didn't say. 
Eighty-eight years old.  Standing up for himself intellectually.  Proud, confident, but inoffensive. Witty.  Tongue in cheek.  Great, great letter.

Copyright © 2015 by Kevin W. Walker

23 July 2015

Dutton Letters, Part 4: Uncle Harvey Checks In

Springfield, Mo                      Feb. 8, 1923
Mrs. Effie Kern
Eureka, Ill.
Dear Niece -- Yes, I find it much easier to put off writing than to get right down to business.  Then I have been somewhat Handicapped with a sore eye for a couple weeks but eyes are alright again.
Glad to get your letter also one from Roberta a few days later indicating that her sprained fingers did not prove serious.  Hurrah for Scoville.  Hope his success will prove an incentive to renewed effort.  We have had a remarkable winter so far.  Not a bit of snow until Sunday morning Feb 5 and then just a little flurry but the temperature dropped to 5 above Monday night. 3 or 4 inches of snow fell but it is almost gone now.  Today is bright sunshine.  Temp now 11 a.m. 42 in the shade north side of house.
Folks all well as usual.  I am gaining very slowly.  Manage to get around the house without cane or crutch but cannot go up or down steps without help of cane or crutches.  I take a little outdoor exercise every a.m. and p.m. & am truly thankful that the weather has been such that I could do so.  Have just come in from a trip around the block.
I think I shall have to ask you to excuse a short letter this time as I wish to write to Roberta while the "spell" is on.  Hope you will write again soon.  Can you give me Madge's address?
Sincerely yours
H.J. Dutton 

Harvey James Dutton (1836-1928) was 87 when this letter was written,  Sounds to me like the elderly gentleman had decided to sit down and catch up on his letter-writing.  Effie (Ricketts) Kern was Harvey's niece by way of his sister Laura Ella (Dutton) Ricketts.  Roberta (Kern) age 17 and Scoville (Kern) age 15 were Effie's daughter and son.  We have determined "Madge" is Margaret Owen, Effie's cousin, and Harvey's niece by way of his late sister Julia Owen.

Tomorrow we continue with the chronicles of the Dutton Letters with an absolutely great letter where Harvey gives us a peek into his head writing about religion and politics to his Catholic nephew.  Stay tuned.

Copyright © 2015 by Kevin W. Walker

22 July 2015

Death of Julia (Dutton) Owen, cont'd. (Dutton Letters, part 3)

This is a transcription of a letter from Harvey James Dutton to his niece Effie (Ricketts) Kern, daughter of Harvey's sister Laura Ella (Dutton) Ricketts, on the occasion of the death of Harvey's sister, and Effie's aunt, Julia (Dutton) Owen.

We read yesterday that Julia's daughter Mabel considered bringing her body back to Metamora, IL to be buried in the Norman Dutton family plot, but the plot is full.  So the decision was made to bury her in Harvey's family plot in Springfield, MO, where the remains of Harvey's wife Victoria already lays.

We also read that Harvey was taking the death of his sister hard.
Springfield, Mo  Nov. 11th. 1920 
My dear niece and family,
You have doubtless been informed of the sudden death of sister Julia.  No doubt you were greatly shocked by that news.  It was indeed a shock to us for while we knew she was very sick, were led to believe there was no special danger.  Julia seemed to be enjoying her visit so much.  Had visited with Elva several days and a week ago yesterday I went with her over to Gertrude's.  She intending to stay a few days.  That evening about 6 o'clock Gertrude telephoned Norma that Julia was awful sick and wanted her to come over.  We went right over.  Took Elva with us.  Called a Dr. an osteopath, and that suited Julia although she objected to calling any Dr.  Said she was sure she would be all right by morning.  Thursday morning she seemed quite a little better. (I should have added it was a case of indigestion)  As Gertrude's baby was quite unwell, Julia was brought back here to Norma's, and while all pain was relieved, her breathing became labored and pulse irregular Sunday.  While she seemed no worse as she did not improve as we thought she should, called another Dr., an Allopath.  He said the cause of her shortness of breath was the condition of her heart.  Later on he said it was asthma.  I cannot give all the particulars.  Monday about 10 a.m. Rowan wired Mabel and Madge that their mother was very sick.  She died 1:30 p.m. Monday.  Ed and Mabel arrived Tuesday 7:00 a.m. Funeral Wednesday 10 a.m. Burial by the side of my wife in Hazelwood Cemetery here.
A great disappointment to me.  Plansa all changed though I think I shall go to Zephyrhills, Fla. May go next week.  Kindest regards to all.  Shall be glad to hear from you.
H.J. Dutton
Elva (Dutton) Mack, Nora (Dutton) Mack, Gertrude (Dutton) Cover are all daughters of Harvey Dutton.  I finally figured out who "Madge" was, Margaret Owen, sister to Mabel Owen, both daughters to Julia.  Rowan Mack was Nora's husband.

Here is a pic of the Dutton family plot.  Lousy picture, only showing three of the eight graves and the memorial, but it is the best one I have.  That middle grave belongs to Julia's husband James Owen. Remember you can click on pics to enlarge.

Here is a pic of the marker for Harvey Dutton and his wife --

And next to him the marker of his sister Julia --

Tomorrow we will continue with part four of our chronicles of the Dutton letters.

Copyright © 2015 by Kevin W. Walker

21 July 2015

The Death of Julia Owen (nee. Dutton, 1847-1920), The Dutton Letters, part 2

Julia (Dutton) Owen was the daughter of Norman and Nancy (Smith) Dutton, and the half-sister of my 2xg-grandmother Louisa (Dutton) Walker.



                                                                         Metamora, Ill
                                                                         Nov 9, 1920
Dear Effie,
     I'm afraid I was rather sudden with my sad news, but I called you as soon as I got Mabel's telegram.  I had just gotten a letter from Mabel this eve.  Saying her mother had one of her old spells of indigestion.  He cousin Elva had written her and she was quite worried.
The telegram was phoned me from Peoria as near as I can remember.  It was something like this: "Mother died Pm. Buried Wednesday in Uncle Harvey's lot in Springfield."
Doesn't it seem like a horrid nightmare?  I.m so glad we had such a nice visit this summer -- who of us thot it would be the last.
I must write to Mabel, and some others.
JULIA EMMA OWEN: "May your days be filled with happiness and all your shadows fly away." Aunt Julia
Effie Mae Kern (nee. Ricketts, 1881-1952) was the niece of Julia (Dutton) Owen through her sister Laura Ella Ricketts (nee. Dutton, 1854-1887).  We have not yet discovered who is Myrtle Ellis.

Friday a.m. 
Dear Myrt,
We are home from our sad journey and just feel stunned -- I am enclosing the letter I received from Elva Mon a.m. just before I wrote you.  Then we sent a telegram for them to view immediately mother's condition.  I could not help but be uneasy and we got a wire about 11:30 saying the Dr said her heart was bad and we had better come.  we left at 1:15 and she died about 1:30 but of course we didn't know it until we got there.
I'll always feel they should have let us know sooner altho the Dr assured them she would be all right.  Of course it was our first thought to bring her to Metamora but I seemed to remember mother said there was no more room in Grandpa Dutton's lot and Uncle Harvey wanted her buried where he will be and her name will be put on his monument where Aunt Lou's already is and also Uncle Harvey with just the space for dates left.  And after all she will be among her own people.  If we had intended to stay here for always of course I would have brought her here.  But of course Ed and I want to be cremated so she would have been alone here too--So I guess it was best after all--but it was hard to leave her away down there.  Uncle Harvey is all broken up over it all.  They were to have left for Florida next Monday.  How thankful I am!  If it had to be that it happened before they went.
Write to Madge -- of course she would have liked to come but it was out of the question. The flowers were beautiful and I never heard a better funeral sermon,  I can't write more now.  Will write to Effie soon.  Wish you would send this to her and Elva's letter too.
Write to me when you can.
With love, Mabel
This letter came down to us through Effie's estate.  The letter from Elva was not included among this bunch, I don't know if Linda has it.  Elva Mack (nee. Dutton, 1867-1952) was Harvey's daughter and would have been writing from on location.  I am not sure who Madge is yet.

My son Ralph and I have visited the Dutton family plot in Metamora a couple times and it is indeed full.

Tomorrow I will complete this story line with the letter from Harvey, and a look at the memorials.

Copyright © 2015 by Kevin W. Walker

20 July 2015

Amanuensis Monday: Civil War Letter of Mother Nancy (Smith) Dutton to Son Harvey Dutton (Dutton Letters, Part 1)

The following is a transcription of a letter written by a mother Nancy Dutton (nee. Smith, 1808-1868) to her son Harvey James Dutton (1836-1928).  I have chronicled a great deal of Harvey's life herehere, and here to name just a few of my posts on the man.  He was a scholar, a hero, a gentleman.  He cried over the lifeless body of my 2xg-grandfather when he died in service.  I am proud of my Dutton ancestors and Harvey is one major reason why.

This is an actual transcription including all errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation.  Brackets are used where text is illegible.
                                                                     Metamora   Jan  18  1863 
Dear son Harvy we received your kind letter in answer to A[  ] but as we had answered your other, we concluded to wait a few days, but I cannot wait any longer, and if our letters do pass on the road, it is not much  matter for we do want to hear from you so often.  There are so many changes lately and for some reason there is but little to be heard that can be relied upon.  That if we get any news it is not certain but that it will be contradicted in a few days, you have heard no doubt of Rosencrance big fight at Murfersboro the papers give him a decided victory and some of the folks about here have had letters from the 51 and Milton Kingston has lost a leg by a shell, Jim Stivers and Henry and Will Taylor are in the regiment, but we have not heard anything from the 17th for three weeks and the report was here that the 108th had been all killed but 17.  But that is not credited but they have not been heard from since they left them--this which was in about a week after your father was there.  Norman Richards is in the 77th company H capt Keedy and Isaac Groves is in the same Will Kerrick and Phil Gallop also, the 104th were taken prisoners and paroled and sent to Columbus Ohio, for Emma Trembels husband was in the regmt and he wrote to Em that if he had money he would come and see her, and she wrote to Jim Brady and he got the money and he sent it on, and I have not heard whether he had come yet, his name is Bangs.  Em is teaching school out east almost to Indiana, one of Mr. Stivers sons was brought home a corpse, his father went about the same time that your Pa went for Horace but could not get to the regmt for some cause and came home, but in a few days, his corpse came on the cars he was in the 51th, three brothers went together, others are experiencing the same heartrending trials that we have, four weeks from the day that Horace was buried San Kingston was brought here and buried he lived near Panola was at El Paso and was taken sick died in two hours, he was so bad that he could not get home only three miles, so sudden a death has not been known for a long time  I do not know as they know what was the cause for he has been a healthy man. 
We think of you every day and hope you may be kept from all harm put your trust in the Lord and do your duty in the fear of the Lord and you will have peace of mind and an inheritance hereafter  farewell 
                                                                         Jan 25 
Another week has passed since I have laid aside my pen and there are several incidents transpired in one week, news from the army and the return of Lieutenant Briggs he has resigned and come home sick, but he is getting along now, and Geo. Everett has been home on a visit he had got a wound in the leg that disabled him and he was sent to Keokuk and he came on home.  I guess never stopped, he stayed two weeks, and went back.  I have not heard from him since.  Newton Mcpeely is in the fourth cavirly and stationed at Columbus Ky  I want you to write you your genl is now and your col too, for we look for something in the paper to hear of your whereabouts, the papers state that genl Steel and Gorman and Hovey have engaged largely in cotton speculation and the war will not end as long as officers can make money as they do now.  How much [       ] to expect this war to last and [           ] And there must be an end of the war [           ] when our men are called home and quit fighting the The generals are awful mad about the proclamation they had an information meeting in town but I believe there was not much done, and we have not heard much about it since for the next day it was accertained that John Clark had the smallpox and several had been to see him and they were badly scared and Stevenson was one, I do not wonder I should think that they would fear the judgements of heaven would be sent against such treasonable sentiments as are uttered daily  Ed Nelson was here a few days agoe he had just received a letter from Will and a read part of his letter to us  He says that they call the 108th "a secesh regiment" For most of them are opposed to the proclamation and said that he would not have enlisted if he thought it was going to free the negros [      ] aint he and Ed read a part of your letter, quite a contrast I think.  Julia received a letter from cousin Arthur a few days agoe he has sent his picture to Almira and he is a fine looking young man he belongs to the 19th Ohio battery and likely at Vicksburg by this time we have heard from the 17th lately all well but a great many of the new boys are sick John Kindig is dead he died at youngs point of Eyrasipelas buried on the bank of the river.  This letter looks so bad that it was a great mind not to send it but I could not write it over again.  Almira will write you soon and Julia will next time so you can burn this soon as you read it if you can 
                                                                        N Dutton
Notes and Comments --
  • I am struck by all the names mentioned of their friends, neighbors and acquaintances.  Imagine being a descendent of one of these ladies or gentlemen and discovering the transcription of this letter?  Imagine all the potential letters out there where mine and/or your ancestors are mentioned in passing?
  • By the time of this letter, at the extol of his comrades, Harvey Dutton had been promoted from Sergeant to 2nd Lieutenant. He would be promoted two more times finally exiting the war as a Captain.
  • Horace Dutton was the first of the Dutton boys to enlist in the Civil War.  Sadly he died from illness less than three months after muster.  His father Norman drove a wagon all the way from Metamora, IL to Memphis, TN to retrieve the body so it could be buried in the family plot.
  • The Duttons were devout Christians, active in the Temperance movement, Sunday School Associations, and of course the Abolitionist movement. As was documented here and other places, Nancy's husband, and Harvey's father, Norman Dutton was a conductor on the Underground Railroad.  This worldview clearly colors what Nancy thinks and says of those who oppose the freedom of African-Americans and the Emancipation Proclamation.
  • These were central Illinois folk.  Evidence is southern Illinois leaned toward sympathy with the south, and central and northern Illinois sympathized with the north. We do see some evidence that some people were in the war for what they thought were reasons other than slavery.  Northerners would say "Preserving the Union."  Southerners would say "State's Rights."  But the specific issue both these turned on was slavery.  I would think it was naive for folks to think otherwise.

Copyright © 2015 by Kevin W. Walker

19 July 2015

Dutton Letters: An Introduction

I have been procrastinating writing this entry into my blog for over a week now.  Not because it is anything negative!  But because I am at a loss for how I want to craft my words.  My emotions have been crowding out my ability to think logically.

This blog has paid me back time and time again.  Distant cousins googling their ancestors or their surnames or whatever; they find me and write me, then they offer to share (some are only interested in what I can give them, but we won't mention them). Such is the case with "the Dutton letters."

As my regular readers know I am particularly proud of my Dutton ancestors.  After reading my blog I was contacted by a descendent of the Duttons -- Linda, a 3rd cousin once removed.  She said she had a lot to share.  Boy howdy!  She had family artifacts!  Letters, pictures, and more.  All I had to offer her was my research.  She was happy to get it!  She blesses me, and we have become friends, albeit 2200 miles apart.

She sent me the first batch of family letters.  Yes, she sent them to me, via registered mail, the ORIGINALS!  God bless her!  Mostly from the 1920s, one or two as late as the 1940s, eleven in total.  The only original she did not send me was an 1863 Civil War letter from my 3xg-grandmother Nancy Smith Dutton to my 2xg-uncle Harvey Dutton.  She plans on donating that to a museum, so she sent me a photocopy and a transcription.  I will take it!  Thank you!!!

The loss for words has returned.  So have the tears of joy.  Yeah, I am an emotional guy, so what.

Over the next several days I will be posting pictures and transcriptions of all these letters, beginning with the Civil War letter tomorrow, on the occasion of the blogging prompt "Amanuensis Monday." All the letters deal with family relations, which could explain why they were kept by Linda's parents and grandparents.

Understandably, I have read the letters, and two things jumped out at me.  The first is kind of hard to explain.  We as genealogists and family historians talk about the happiness of the finds and the discoveries, especially the difficult ones that we had to work our hardest to get through the figurative "brickwall."  But I think I have discovered something even more rewarding -- the confirmation that what I presumed about these people was correct.  Let me explain.  We all create images in our heads of these people as we research them.  Who they were, what they were like, what they believed, why they made the choices they did, etc.  As long as we don't promote our presumptions as fact, it can actually aid in research.  But then, to actually read in their own handwriting and their own words a confirmation that the presumptions I made about them were correct?  The feeling is indescribable.  Nothing else like it!  "Rewarding" does not say enough.  It fills the researcher with joy.

The second thing that jumped out at me in these letters is these are real people just like us, doing what they need to do and what they want to do.  They work and they relax, experience highs and lows, illnesses and well-being, losses and triumphs.  Too, too often when we do this research, these people becomes names and dates -- static, objective, without identities.  So wrong.  These are living people, progressing in real time in their daily lives in their era, living subjectively, and full of identity and individualism.  Time and custom might restrict how well we are able to get to know them as persons.  But they never were less.  They never are less.

Linda says she has more, she just needs to find the time to gather it all.  If you are a Walker relative of mine in all likelihood she is your cousin too.  She is not just blessing me by sharing, she is blessing you too.  From all of us Walkers to you cousin Linda, thank you.

Copyright © 2015 by Kevin W. Walker

15 July 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Elsie Rue Hall in 1884

Elsie Rue Hall Surpluss (1883-1957) was my great-grandmother.

Copyright © 2015 by Kevin W. Walker

28 June 2015

Sunday Obituary: Ralph W. Gurwell (1873-1959)

From the Wichita (KS) Evening Eagle, Thursday, February 19, 1959 --
Former Farmer Taken by Death 
Ralph W. Gurwell, 85, of 729 S. Water, died Thursday at a local hospital. 
Born Aug. 7, 1873, in Sparks, Kan., he had been a farmer before moving to Wichita 15 years ago from Humboldt, Kan. 
Mr. Gurwell was a member of the West Side E.U.B. Church. He was married to Jesse Furtch[sic] on Sept. 1, 1898, at Yates Center, Kan. She preceded him in death. 
Survivors include two daughters, Mrs. Mabel Harris, 138 N. Grove; Mrs. Helen Ashworth, Kansas City, Mo.; one son, Homer, Indio, Calif.; two sisters, Mrs. Rosette French, Wichita; and Mrs. Alice Bradford, Wichita; two brothers, Don of Wichita, and Ernest of Humboldt, Kan.; seven grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. 
Funeral services will be conducted in the chapel of the Byrd-Snodgrass Funeral Home at 3:30 p.m. Saturday with the Rev. Clayton Lehman of the West Side E.U.B. Church officiating. 
Burial will be in the Wichita Park Cemetery.
Ralph Wesley Gurwell was my great-uncle on my mother's paternal side. His wife's actual maiden name was "Burtch."

Copyright © 2015 by Kevin W. Walker

27 June 2015

G-Grandpa Gibson owned an "Empire 20?"

From The Chanute Daily Tribune, Chanute, Kansas, Mon, Dec 26, 1910 --
Charles Gibson and Earl Bogle went to Chanute Sunday in Mr. Gibson's Empire 20, and S. M. Pickens went in his remodeled Model 10 Buick.
"Empire 20" automobile?  What the heck is that?  Well howdy, howdy!  A picture and an advertisement for the 1910 Empire 20 --

(Click to Enlarge.)
Here is the entry at Wikipedia, not a lot there --
Empire (1910 automobile):
The Empire was an American automobile manufactured from 1910 until 1919. Marketed as "the little aristocrat", the Empire 20 was a four-cylinder shaft-driven runabout built in Indianapolis. The model "A" was a conventional runabout for three passengers with a rumble seat. The model "B" had two bucket seats, a longer hood and was geared higher to attain faster speeds.
I had never heard of such a vehicle!  No record yet if he owned the Model "A" or the Model "B." Charles Lewis Gibson (1858-1938) was my great-grandfather on my mother's paternal side.

Copyright © 2015 by Kevin W. Walker

26 June 2015

Newspaper Article with Obituary on Passing of Phoebe (Ward) Chesley

From the Arnold (NE) Sentinel, March 7, 1928 --
In the passing of Mrs Phoebe Chesley the Arnold Community sustained the loss of it's oldest resident.  On February 6, 1928 she celebrated the ninety-eighth anniversary of her birth and received many flowers, other gifts, also numerous messages both my telephone and mail.  To make this event complete, a son and daughter, Charles E. Chesley and Ida E. Barnes respectively came from Prosser, Washington to be with their mother.  They with Mrs. W.D. Copeland are the surviving three children from a family of eight.  Mr. Chesley remained only a short time but Mrs Barnes remained for a longer visit and she with her sister, Mrs. Copeland at whose home Grandma lived were with her when the end came. 
Grandma Chesley leaves a long line of descendants, besides her three children.  There are twenty-six grand-children, eighty-four great-grand-children and thirteen great-great-grand-children. Her going also breaks up five living generations namely, Mrs. Phoebe Chesley, Mrs. Ida Barnes, Mrs. Maud Conely, Mrs Fay Sesrood and Mrs. Genevieve Stevens.  A very interesting feature of the ages of four generations of these good people. 
Mrs. Phoebe Chesley is exactly twenty-six years older than her youngest daughter, Mrs Ida Barnes who is seventy-two, she (Mrs. Barnes) is exactly twenty-six years the senior of her youngest daugher, Mrs. Blanche Winslow who is forty-six.  Mrs Winslow has a daughter Zelpha who is twenty-six years of age. 
Grandma Chesley was paralyzed in the lower limbs making it necessary for her to remain in a wheel chair, but she could use her hands freely, doing all kinds of fine handwork. 
She could read without the aid of glasses, few people are as familiar with Scripture as she, for she read and discussed the Bible frequently.  Her mind remained intact to the end.  Many of her friends quoted her as a very clever conversationalist.
Funeral services were held at the M. E. Church on thursday March 1. Rev. L.S. Burnham officiating.  Interment beside her husband in Powell Canyon Cemetery. 
The floral tributes were many.
Note about the above, Phoebe was twenty-six years older than Ida, but her youngest daughter was Lucy (Chesley) Walker Copeland, not Ida.
Phoebe C. Ward was born February 6, 1830 at Plattsburg, N. Y.  In 1848 she was united in marriage to Charles Chesley and from this union were born eight children, three of whom survive their mother: Charles Chesley and Mrs. Ida E. Barnes both of Prosser Washington; and Mrs Lucy M. Copeland of Arnold, Neb: five children preceded their mother to that better land, one of them passing away in infancy, the others growing to manhood and womanhood. 
Grandma Chelsey, as she was known to everyone, has made her home with her daughter, Mrs. Copeland for many years as she was practically and invalid for a long time.  Her husband preceded her in death twenty-three years ago. 
Grandma Chesley united with the M. E. Church when she was eighteen years of age and has retained her membership ever since and during the final years especially, she devoted much of her time to reading the Bible and in prayer.  She has made her home near Arnold for the past forty-three years, being one of the real early settlers here. 
Besides her three children, she leaves several grandchildren, a number of great-grandchildren, and a host of friends.  At the time of her passing on February 28, 1928 she had reached to advanced age of 98 years and 22 days.

Copyright © 2015 by Kevin W. Walker

25 June 2015

Newspaper Article on Phoebe Chesley's (1830-1928) 98th Birthday

From the Arnold (NE) Sentinel, February 10, 1928 --
A most notable event in the life of West Yucca Valley occurred Monday, February 6, 1928, when Grandma Chesley celebrated her 98th birthday in a quiet manner at the home of her daughter, Mrs W. D. Copeland, who with Mrs. Ida Barnes and Charles Chesley, the latter two of Prosser, Washington, the only three surviving out of eight children, while Grandma Chesley and her husband were each one of a family of eleven children, she being the only one remaining out of the twenty-two.  Besides her three children aged 74, 72, and 62 years, she has twenty-six grandchildren, seventy great-grandchildren and twelve great-great-grandchildren. 
Grandma Chesley was born in Plattsburgh, NY in 1830, she was married in 1848 and resided in New York until 1856 when she removed to Illinois, and in 1878 moved to Kansas where they resided until 1885, when they came to this community, living in Powell Canyon.  Mr. Chesley died about 22 years ago. 
Hosts of friends and relatives gave her a postal card and letter shower in remembrance of her 98th birthday, all hoping she will remain with us to celebrate the century mark.
Phoebe (Ward) Chesley was my 2xg-grandmother.  Unfortunately she passed away less than three weeks after the publication of this article.  The named "Mrs. W.D. Copeland" is my g-grandmother Lucy (Chesley) Walker Copeland (1866-1944).

Copyright © 2015 by Kevin W. Walker

23 June 2015

Lt. Harvey J. Dutton Wounded at Vicksburg

From The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Illinois), 12 Jun 1863, Page 1 --
At Vicksburg, May 22d. -- . . . .1st Lieut H J Dutton, Co A, leg, flesh wound; . . . . 

Copyright © 2015 by Kevin W. Walker

21 June 2015

Sunday Obituary: Eloise Walker Hayward (nee. Crow, 1927-2008)

(Click to Enlarge)
From the April 30, 2008 issue of The Gothenburg (NE) Times --
Eloise Walker Hayward, 81, of Cozad, died Monday, April 21, 2008, at the Golden Living Center in Cozad. 
Services were held on Friday, April 25, at Parkview United Methodist Church in Cozad with the Rev. Jaime Farias officiating. Burial took place at the Cozad Cemetery. 
Hayward was born on Feb. 28, 1927, at Arnold to Leslie and Sophia (Beyer) Crow. She attended and graduated from Arnold High School. 
On April 27, 1947, she was united in marriage to Glenn Walker, at Arnold. The couple made their home in the Arnold and Callaway area where they farmed. 
She and her husband moved to North Platte in 1965, where she worked at W.J. O’Connors. In 1971, the couple then moved to Cozad where she was employed with Monroe Auto Equipment Company for 16 years as the head custodian. 
In 1993, her husband, Glenn, preceded her in death. 
On May 17, 1997, she married Bill Hayward at Cozad. In their retirement, they both enjoyed traveling and pitching horseshoes, according to family members. 
She had also enjoyed woodworking, quilting and helping people by volunteering, said family members. 
Hayward was a member of Parkview United Methodist Church, Rebekah Lodge, Crusaders and the VFW Auxiliary. 
She was preceded in death by: her first husband, Glenn Walker in 1993; a sister, Burdette Deterding; brother, Darrell crow; a granddaughter and a great-grandson, Tyler. 
Survivors include: her husband, Bill Hayward of Gothenburg; two sons—Terry (Orpha) Walker and Steven Walker (Carol Schaffer of Kearney), all of Cozad; two daughters—Charlene (David) Peck of Cozad, and Charlotte Talbott (Dean Herrington) of Elwood; brother, Bob (Mona) Crow of Arnold; three sisters—Helen (Gerald) Dorris of Kearney, Sharon Leonard of North Platte and Kate (Dwayne) Henry of Callaway; 13 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren; numerous other relatives and friends.
Mrs. Hayward was the wife of my second cousin Glenn L. Walker (1917-1993).  Sadly I never met her.  But I see so many loving tributes to her on Facebook.

Copyright © 2015 by Kevin W. Walker

20 June 2015

Newspaper Gets Cute With Surname "Surpluss"

From The Leavenworth Times (Leavenworth, Kansas), 5 Jun 1907 --
Even though it does sound sort of paradoxical, it was what he regarded as a necessity that Chas. F. Hembree secured at ElDorado when he married Miss Mary Surpluss.
Mary Surpluss (1870-1957) was my 2xg-aunt, on my mother's maternal side.

Copyright © 2015 by Kevin W. Walker

19 June 2015

Friday Funny: Tracing My Tree

I started out calmly, tracing my tree,
To find if I could find the makings of me.
And all that I had was Great-grandfather's name,
not knowing his wife or from where he came.
I chased him across a long line of states,
And came up with pages and pages of dates.
When all put together, it made me forlorn,
Proved poor Great-grandpa had never been born.
One day I was sure the truth I had found,
Determined to turn this whole thing upside down.
I looked up the record of one Uncle John,
But then I found the old man to be younger than his son.
Then when my hopes were fast growing dim,
I came across records that must have been him.
The facts I collected made me quite sad,
Dear old Great grandfather was never a Dad.
I think someone is pulling my leg,
I am not at all sure I wasn't hatched from an egg.
After hundreds of dollars I've spent on my tree,
I can't help but wonder if I'm really me.

Copyright © 2015 by Kevin W. Walker

18 June 2015

Chesley Homestead, Part 4: "The Neighborhood."

In the letter I published Monday from my Grandpa Keith he said that Charles. E. Chesley was the first to arrive in Powell Canyon, Custer County, Nebraska.  And that is right.  This is also confirmed by the Callaway (NE) history book Settling the Seven Valleys (Lorraine Smith, ed., Loup Valley Queen, Charles and Donna Meyers: Callaway, NE, 1982).  But it is a little more complicated than that.

Immigrating across the west from New York were several families traveling together and settling together -- the Chesleys, the Copelands, Olneys, Chamberlains, and others.  They travelled first to Illinois, then to Kansas, before reaching Powell Canyon, Nebraska.

The first of the group to settle in Powell Canyon was apparently Jared Copeland, who actually became a well-respected builder of sod-houses, and engineered the construction of the soddie the Chesleys moved into.  After Charles E. Chesley was in place, slowly but surely he was joined by the rest of his brothers and his parents, his sisters and their husbands (Copelands, Chamberlains, etc.)

Here is the original landowner map (be sure to click on it to enlarge) --

Map provided with permission from HistoryGeo.com Copyright 2015, Arphax Publishing Co.

It is just like my grandfather wrote that he remembered, all the families bunched up together.  He said "within three miles of each other" which I guess that when you are talking farms that is close. :-)  We even add another family into the group when Eva Pearl Chesley married James Wonch, and James' mother's maiden name is "Woodward."

Now be sure look at this map with a critical eye!  Remember that the government made you work the land for some time before they would hand it over to you via the Homestead Act.  And understand there was buying and selling going on before these official dates were codified.  But we still get a glimpse here of the picture our sources describe -- the Chesleys, Copelands, Walkers, and Wonches all bunched together.

Here is more from Settling the Seven Valleys --
The Chesleys did not become Custer County pioneer residents until 1899.  First Chesley to come to Powell Canyon, fifteen miles northwest of Callaway, was Charles E. and Maria Jane (Copeland) Chesley, who purchased a rough 160 acre homestead from Martha's brother Jared Copeland.......This couple also welcomed to Powell Canyon , the families of all five brothers and sisters (Ollnys, Walkers, etc.) as well as their parents Charles H. and Phoebe (Ward) Chesley who were in their sixties.  Now the elder Chesleys probably made their home with youngest daughter Lucy, and Henry Martin Walker....[T]he elder Chesleys purchased the Charles E. farm in 1894...... 
The last of the Chesley brothers and sisters to come to Nebraska was George, who came by  wagon in 1899.  By then his oldest daughter Eva Pearl was eighteen and like a mother to brothers, Clarence 15, Harry B. 13 and to Fern 10.  The mother Cora Densmore had died in 1898 from epilepsy after many years of illness....... 
Eva Pearl was soon married to James Wonch and to this couple three strapping sons were born, Grant, Cecil, and Luman.  James' mother, Sarah (Woodman) Wonch, a widow, was still proving up on the Wonch homestead...... 
One of the crops of Powell Canyon was cane and both the Chesley and Wonch farms made molasses in early fall.  Eugene, son of Charles E. and Maria Jane, lost his arm in the molasses press.  Dr. Mylar of Callaway amputated above the elbow, at the farm with only a neighbor, the older Bob Shaw to assist.
Some of the families moved on from Nebraska.  Most notable of those being Charles E. taking his family to Washington state.  But when you look at this map and this history, you have to come away with the conclusion that Powell Canyon, Nebraska was one of the places our family put down roots.  You might even say it is okay to call it "home."

Copyright © 2015 by Kevin W. Walker

17 June 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Chesley Homestead, Part 3: Old Farm Equipment Out Back

Copyright © 2015 by Kevin W. Walker

16 June 2015

Chesley Homestead, Part 2: The Charles Chesley Sod House

This is reprinted with permission from the Masters Thesis "The Sod Houses of Custer County, Nebraska" by Andrea R. Kampinen, for the University of Georgia, 2008.
The Charles Chesley Sod House/Nolan Steele Sod House is one of two remaining
sod houses in Custer County that are still inhabited. The house is located in Powell
Canyon nearly six miles east of Arnold on the northwest quarter of Section 21, Township
17 North, Range 24 West. The house is clearly visible from the public right-of-way but
does not resemble a sod house. The dwelling is currently a one-story, L-plan building
clad in masonite siding. Displaying a hip roof, the house features a non-historic shed
roof dormer on the south elevation, which is its primary façade. A historic one-story
rectangular addition has been constructed on the northwest corner of the house giving the
building its current L-plan. 
Charles Chesley built the original sod core in 1892. Rectangular in plan, the
house is very large and measures 48’-3”x 30’-3”. It is known through a local newspaper
article that blue stem grass was used for the sod and the walls measured approximately
36” thick. When Nolan Steele moved into the house in 1902, he covered the exterior
with wood clapboard. The interior of the house, however, was inaccessible due to the
absence of property owners and no further details were gathered on the interior layout of
the dwelling. Since there was no sod exposed on the exterior, block dimensions and
coursing could not be verified. 
All windows and doors on the house have been downsized and replaced with
modern types, but their placement is still likely original based on a historic photograph of
the house. All windows are one-over-one aluminum sash. The south elevation, also the
primary façade, contains four windows and an entrance. The entrance contains a modern
door covered by a non-historic stoop, and the central two windows are paired. The nonhistoric dormer is centered above the paired windows. The east elevation contains two
evenly spaced windows. The north elevation features two windows and another set of
paired windows. The frame addition projects off the northwest corner of the house and
obscures part of the north and west elevations. The west elevation likely contained two
windows in similar positions as the east elevation (Figures 37 and 38). 
From the historic photograph, the roof shape appears to be original. The exact
construction method of the steeply pitched hip roof is unknown, but local history states
that the lumber for the roof came from the Milldale lumber mill. It is currently sheathed
with asphalt shingles, but the historic photograph shows it was covered with wood
shingles. The side gable frame addition was added to the northwest corner of the house
in 1928. Its construction removed a small portion of the sod wall. The interior of the
house was inaccessible, but the local newspaper article mentions that the house included
four bedrooms and a small upstairs. The house was updated with electricity and
Charles Chesley filed a Timber Claim on the property in 1899, but the sod house
was already built on the land. Jared Copeland, Chesley’s brother-in-law, began building
the large, one-story sod dwelling for the Chesley’s in 1892 and finished it three years
later. Copeland is known to have helped or directed the construction of several sod
houses in the general vicinity of Lower Powell Canyon. The Chesley’s sold the property
to Samuel Steele in April 1902. However, Nolan and Ella Steel moved into the sod house
in November 1902 and established the B (Butler) and S (Steele) Cattle Ranch. Samuel

Figure 37. Sod – 03: Charles Chesley/Nolan Steele Sod House, 1892 --
South Elevation, view looking north

Northeast corner, view looking southwest
Figure 38. Chesley/Steele floor plan
Steele remained the property owner until Nolan Steele received the deed in 1914. The
Steeles raised cattle and hogs and were well respected in the community. The property
continues to remain in the Steele family today. Leon Steele is the grandson of Nolan
Steele and son of Cecil Steele, who lived in the house until the early 1990s. 
The Chesley/Steele Sod House is unique in Custer County. The mere size of the
structure, 48’-3”x 30’-3”, differentiates it from many of the other sod houses found in the
county. This house took an experienced sod builder three years to build. While it is
implied that sod houses did not have building plans, this particular sod house appears to
have been carefully constructed to ensure its durability. It was constructed as a
permanent family homestead and not a temporary structure. Its quality craftsmanship and
durability secured its fate with the Steele family and prevented its demise, which so many
other sod houses in Custer County faced. 
Since the Steele Family has occupied the Chesley/Steele Sod House for most of
its lifetime, its history is better documented that most sod houses in Custer County.
Although the interior could not be inspected, the exterior of the house remains in good
condition. Its integrity may appear compromised due to the exterior alterations, but for a
sod house these alterations are necessary to keep the house in good maintenance. Sod
houses are not significant for their exterior appearance; they are significant for their
method of construction. Without the alterations imposed on the Chesley/Steele Sod
House, it may not have been livable according to twentieth century standards and
ultimately may not have survived into the twenty-first century.

Copyright © 2015 by Kevin W. Walker

15 June 2015

Amanuensis Monday: Keith G. Walker's letter to May (Northup) Conn

This is my best attempt at an identical transcription.  My grandpa Keith was 79 when he wrote this and suffering for Parkinson's.  I kind of feel guilty for including all his grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors, but I also know it is necessary for identifying other things he may have written.  I will apologize to him face to face when I get to heaven.
July 1, 1973 
Dear Cousin May 
I expect you thought what I wrote you like I did I did not want to help you but was not that  I thought Lillie could help you more than I so mother's day I called Lillie's Girl Blanch Yerves(?) and asked her to see if Lillie could rember the trip from Nebraska but she could not Your Grand Pa Henry Chesley was bourn March 15 1860 in Illinois died December 14 1926 at 66 yr. 
Hattie Olly Chesley bourn July 7 1867 in Michigan died in 8 March 1938 age 70 she did not know where they were married but they moved to Kansas 1882 or 83  Lillie was bourn in Nicodemus Kansas Oct 14 1883 in 1887 or 1888 they moved to Nebraska  My folks was married in Osborn Kansas in Oct 26 1884 then they moved to near Arnold in 1886 then my Stept Father and his brothers came to Arnold he was Warren D Copeland but he went to Wyoming within 1890 and when your folks went to Montana  he stayed there for a while then came back to Arnold in 1896 0f 1897 and then he and my mother was married in 1899 and a good Father to us boys. 
His brother stay near Arnold the rest of his life I have a book that has the names of seven  They had 3 befor they left here I think it 1891 or 1892 when they left Arnold because my brother would tell about playing with the three if he was bourn in August of 1887. 
My dad Warren would tell about being in or Downs Beloit in Kansas  That is where my sister is buried I am not sure 
there Was Geo Chesley then Charles Chesley he was the first one to come to Arnold Nebr  Henry was the 4th of the Chesley family and Charles Chesley went to Washington near Tacoma or Buckley in Dec 1902  I remember but at one time Charles Henry then my folks and George Chesley all lived close together with in 3 miles. I hope to see you some time this year the Lord Willing  I would like to have these back when you get your copy 
Love Cousin Keith
This is another example of this family history blog paying me back for my work.  A third cousin was Googling his ancestors and found my blog.  He was in possession of this letter and asked me if I wanted it?  "Why-y su-re!" (Thank you Frank.)

Keith G. Walker was my grandfather, and May (Northup) Conn was his first cousin once removed.

Copyright © 2015 by Kevin W. Walker